The ability to differentiate.
One of these things is not like the other, even if they seem the same.
In studying for my ham radio Technician test, I learned a lot of things I hope to never have to explain to someone who actually understands it.
One of the questions out of the possible bank of questions has to do with the difference between equipment that is sensitive and selective. Sensitivity, in this case, is being able to pick up on faint signals. Selectivity is being able to choose from many signals. That’s a crude but workable explanation (see opening paragraph).
Perhaps an argument could be made there’s an oversensitivity problem in our culture, but that’s for another day. I’ve been thinking about selectivity instead, the ability to select what’s real or valuable amidst massive amounts of deceptive signal and confusing noise.
Let’s start this story where all great modern dramas start: social media.
I left Facebook to get away from all the arguing, among other reasons. I went to MeWe, the poor man’s Facebook, and simply enjoyed being able to share articles—with or without comment—with little interaction. It served as a mix of a kind of bookmarking service, as well as to let family members see stuff I was reading. On my old blog, I wrote about the weird initial experience many of us had in the mass influx of users on MeWe where random dudes were incessantly trying to friend women. At the start, I did add people I didn’t know personally (mostly women) so I’d at least see some stuff in my feed, but I quickly stopped adding people unless I knew them personally. At this point, I am at a pleasant equilibrium. Not much actual interaction (which is fine), the ability to share links I may want to return to. I have a few pages and groups and share themed curated content there for those who are interested.
One innocuous day, I shared a post on my personal timeline about Putin and his creative method of invading Ukraine by setting up shop in two newly declared independent regions, and I got a taste of Facebook. Someone on the internet disagreed with me! Someone I don’t actually know!
After giving me a brief historical slap down of how the U.S. declared independence from Britain and how France helped us, how Quebec has wanted to be independent, and the example of Timor, I was informed this wasn’t an invasion. These were nations declaring independence, nothing more.
“There’s no need to go to war,” I was told.
I’d not advocated war. I hate war. I’d advocated being aware we were probably headed towards one, or at least seeing one emerge, by realizing it wasn’t just Independence Day for a few folks. And I surely don’t see Ukrainian leadership as pure as the driven snow (see also: Hunter Biden’s laptop).
Having read a history book or two, living in Australia right around the time of East Timor’s independence, and being fully aware of Quebec’s desire for autonomy, I was admittedly a bit annoyed. Perhaps two years of a pandemic and being told I was stupid and didn’t “believe science” has shortened my already short fuse, but I did not spend years in school working hard to learn things and living with my nose in a book for most of my life for some stranger to think I had to be told France helped the U.S. in our War of Independence (or Revolutionary War, if you’re British).
I reiterated that while I wasn’t advocating for war with Russia, it was naïve to think Putin was just innocently setting up shop in the newly declared independent nations that had, a very short time ago, been part of Ukraine. He literally massed at their door, right before they magically declared independence and let him in. Sure. Nothing to see here. I pointed out his presence and friendliness with Belarus, as well as Russia’s apparently permanent presence and, frankly, control in Syria.
Timor, Quebec, ye olde thirteen colonies—they weren’t full of pipelines, strategically located for Russia, part of the former USSR, requesting to be a part of NATO, and a host of other things. Same thing (declaring independence), but different.
Selectivity. Out of the vast array of information and multiple choices, can you select the correct one, the useful one, the one you need now?
Maybe it’s a taxonomic problem, where the presence of enough characteristics causes something to be lumped into a category when it really doesn’t belong. Maybe the obvious characteristics aren’t the most important ones to classify and understand something.
For example, the pipeline protest in North Dakota, versus the trucker convoy in Canada. The leftists loved the former, but is gleeful about the crushing of the latter. Private property damage, threats to citizens, and fear were found in the former, but not in the latter. Tons of garbage was left in the flood plain of the river the protesters said they were there to protect in the former, but there are videos of protesters in the latter going around to pickup trash in an organized manner. The mainstream media treated the protesters like darlings and lapped up their every word in the former, but labeled the protesters of the latter very hateful and untrue things, helping to dox supporters.
But both were protests, so we categorize them as the same.
They were not the same. One way we can tell is by how people responded differently to them. That’s an unwritten cue. If the left loves pipeline protests and BLM city infernos, why the hate for the trucker convoy?
They are not the same, that’s why.
They might wear the same clothes, but what’s inside is different. The motivation, the internal force, is different.
The independence of the U.S., and Quebec’s desire for it (probably heightened now) are not the same as what is happening in Ukraine. Look at a map, and see where Russia now has a solid foothold or, at least, welcome invitation. Belarus. Syria. Bits of Ukraine. The awkward reality of Crimea.
The ability to differentiate between things that appear the same but are not is fairly important right now in this time of off-the-charts deception, bots, and information overload. Can you select the characteristics and information that leads you to differentiate?